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Amsterdam is One of the Most Multicultural Cities in the World

How many people and nationalities live in Amsterdam?

On November 21, 2016, all 180 Amsterdammers who took part in the 180 Nationalities Project were invited for a dinner at the Royal Tropical Institute. Concept: Marjolein Frijling.
Cultural diversity, Amsterdam style. On November 21, 2016, all 180 Amsterdammers who took part in the 180 Nationalities Project were invited for a dinner at the Royal Tropical Institute. Concept: Marjolein Frijling.

Updated Jan. 5, 2023 — Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Amsterdam is home to 180 nationalities.

At least that is the figure given in 2014 by Onderzoek en Statistiek, the Amsterdam Office for Research and Statistics.

At the time, city marketers, politicians and other pundits emphasized that this made Amsterdam “the most diverse city in the world.” Never mind that some of those nationalities were represented by just a handful of people.

Of course, the number of different nationalities in Amsterdam varies all the time. Consequently, the claim that Amsterdam is the most multicultural city in the world is sometimes true – and sometimes not.

But Jeroen Slot, research director at Onderzoek en Statistiek, says the exact number is not that important anyway. “The point is that you have many different nationalities. Sometimes there are more, sometimes less. That says little about what is changing in the city, but more about how the number of countries is evolving. The point is that Amsterdam is a reflection of the world, with many minority groups and no majority group.”

Number of Nationalities in Amsterdam

2014175 * (See below)
2015174
2016174
2017172
2018177
2019180
2020178
2021178
2022177
2023(coming soon)
Number of Nationalities in Amsterdam — Data by Onderzoek, Informatie en Statistiek

On January 1, 2014, Amsterdam was home to 180 nationalities. However, as of January 6 that year, the Dutch Government no longer records second or multiple nationalities. “If you hold another citizenship besides that of the Netherlands, this will no longer be noted when you register at your municipality.” As a result, the number of nationalities for that year was adjusted.

Most Common Migration Background in Amsterdam

O&S also keeps track of the most common migration background in Amsterdam – for nationalities with more than 1.300 individuals per group.1

Viewed that way, on January 1, 2022 groups of Amsterdammers with a migration background represent 54 countries.

Top 10 countries of origin:

  1. Netherlands – 378002
  2. Morocco – 77588
  3. Suriname – 62478
  4. Turkey – 44831
  5. Indonesia – 22850
  6. Germany – 19275
  7. Great Britain – 16295
  8. Ghana – 13195
  9. Italy – 12538
  10. USA – 12323

By the way: the proportion of Amsterdam residents without an immigrant background fell from 50% to 44% between 2011 and 2021.2

People waiting at the Westermarkt Tram Stop in Multicultural Amsterdam
People waiting at the Westermarkt Tram Stop in Multicultural Amsterdam – © Birute Vijeikiene

Diversity in Amsterdam

Amsterdam rose to prominence due to its international trade. And trade has always been more important than ideology or religion. No wonder Amsterdam is traditionally a city of immigrants, and a shining light of diversity and tolerance.

As Russell Shorto — historian, former Amsterdammer and author of Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City — says:

I never stopped to take note of the range of nationalities I was in regular contact with during the six years I lived in Amsterdam, but writing a column about diversity in the city offers a good excuse to reflect on the subject. French, Irish, Iranian, Moroccan, American, Canadian, South African, Australian, Israeli, Afghani and Belgian – that would be a quick accounting. Oh, and Dutch.

Of course, anyone living in any city might easily conjure a similarly varied list. That’s the nature of the world we live in. One thing that sets Amsterdam’s diversity apart is its antiquity. Maybe it’s stretching things to say that Amsterdam invented diversity, but it is certainly the case that Amsterdam’s growth – its rise to Golden Age greatness – had precisely to do with its diversity. And it’s not a stretch to say this: in becoming the melting pot of Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, the city set the template for modern urban life.
Young people in cosmopolitan Amsterdam
Young people in cosmopolitan Amsterdam – © Joyfull | Dreamstime

180 Amsterdammers

When theater maker and journalist Marjolein Frijling learned about the 180 different nationalities in Amsterdam, she decided to interview one person from each of them.

Together with cameraman Casper Brink, she turned those interviews into brief video documentaries.

Despite the great diversity, Marjolein also discovered similarities in their stories. For example, an important shared view among the 180 immigrants is that they have ‘gained’ something, but also ‘lost’ something when they left their country of birth. This common thread is the starting signal for making a long documentary. In collaboration with producer Interakt, Marjolein worked on her debut film, ‘Win Some Lose Some | 180 Roads to Amsterdam.’

The film was to premiere in 2017 at the EYE Film Theater. But unfortunately, the target amount for the crowdfunded film project was not reached.

To date 66 of the project’s video shorts are posted on YouTube, but only a handful of them – including the trailer below – are subtitled in English.

Trailer, 180 Amsterdammers

The Population of Amsterdam (and Greater Amsterdam)

Amsterdam has approximately 918,000 inhabitants (Last update, January 1, 2024). In the year 2000 the number was 731.288. In 2050, Amsterdam will have 1,092,893 citizens, as forecast by the municipality’s Research and Statistics (Onderzoek en Statistiek) department.

The Amsterdam metropolitan area is home to 2.5 million people (January 1, 2024).

In Amsterdam proper the growth in population is mainly due to foreign migrants and the merger with the municipality of Weesp (population ±20.000), according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

In 2022 about 28,500 people migrated to the city, including 5,000 Ukrainians who found temporary shelter here. On the other hand, almost 15,000 inhabitants left the city, Amsterdam daily Het Parool says.

In July, Statistics Netherlands and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) already expressed the expectation that Amsterdam will probably pass the one million population milestone in 2030. That is 5 years earlier than the research organizations predicted in 2019.

How Many Expats Live in Amsterdam?

Hard to say, as nobody seems to keep track. The number most often mentioned (but not cited) is “90.000 expats.”

Amsterdam is home to more than 2,700 international companies.


This article was written with love by the multicultural DutchAmsterdam team – the Amsterdam Experts. It was last updated on Thursday, January 5, 2023.

Notes:

  1. Dataset Stand van de bevolking Amsterdam, Onderzoek en Statistiek. We looked at the data last updated on July 6, 2022.
  2. Onderzoek en Statistiek, Bevolking – plus linked article, De Amsterdamse bevolking sinds 1900, September 16, 2022
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